By Jade Johnston
It looks like the night sky, but this is actually a view from within the glow worm caves at Waitomo. After the conclusion of kiwiburn we got a ride with Owen as far as Hamilton and he dropped us off at the turn off to the motorway that we needed. We waited for about ten minutes maybe until we were picked up by a guy named G (or something….the accents here….) who took us most of the way to Waitomo. Here we had to wait quite a while as there didn’t seem to be much traffic, and it also started to rain which was disheartening. After about half an hour of waiting, we decided to give up, sit under a tree, a make lunch. I had only pulled out the tortilla wraps (for peanut butter and jelly wraps….obviously) when a car pulled up beside us and asked if we needed a lift. We were super grateful, especially when we found out that they had originally driven past us and had turned back to get us, even though we were going to a different place than them. They were a super chatty young couple, John and Holly, who live in Hamilton. Holly is finished up her last year of law school and John is an accountant. They dropped us off at the i-site in Waitomo.
It was lucky for us that the cave operator for which we were doing our tour was in the building right beside the i-site. Our tour was booked for the next day at noon, but considering our great luck hitch hiking, we opted instead to do that days last tour. We had about 15 minutes to quickly eat some lunch and got ready for the tour.
We piled into a van only to be driven about 500 metres to another building. It was here that we were kitted up in our wetsuits, gumboots and helmets. Getting into the wetsuits was an adventure in itself, and I guess the man handing them out thought I was skinnier than I am because I got royally stuck in my wetsuit and had to have assistance to get it peeled off me so I could go get another one. This one worked better and soon we were ready to go. We all got back into the van and drove into the country side. We stopped near some farm property, were given rubber inner tubes, and had to walk a fair way through a field before we came to the cave entrance.
With our lights off we could see the hundreds of glow worms which dotted the ceiling of the cave. As we walked deeper into the cave it became wetter and wetter, until the water was past our waists. Here is where the adventure started for real. We were lined up in single file, with one hand on the side of the cave and one hand on the left shoulder of the person in front of us. We were then instructed to switch off our headlamps and blindly walk into the darkness, with the water to our chests. Looking up we could see more glow worms, trying to attract their dinner with the light from their bums.
At the end of our walk through the darkness, we were given light once more, only to see a ladder up to a waterfall. We were told to climb up, turn around, and fall backwards so that we landed with our bums in our inner tube.
I was the third in line.
I went last.
I DO NOT jump backwards.
After a conversation which concluded with:
Guide: “There is no other way around it, are you just going to go back?”
I was told that there was a ladder I could climb down. I DO NOT jump backwards.
From this point on we floated through the water until it became too deep for the guides who were pulling us along. Then we had to swim with our inner tubes. At this point of the cave system, the water was 30 feet deep.
Swimming while wearing gum boots is not so easy.
After this point we came to a massive water slide, for which, I must admit, I also had a mild panic attack over, but in the end I made it down. This concluded our cave tour. Now we just had to climb the stairs leading out of the cave….with our gum boots full of water. Not easy. Great thigh work out though.
That evening we set up our tent at a backpackers under a tree since the rain was still relentless. If only we had a camo tarp instead of my blue one…we would have been well hidden. We then trudged into town for a hot meal, and made friends with a Swedish guy named Frederik.
The next morning we headed out once more…. destination New Plymouth